Evaluation of the Performance of Experimenters as a Function of Their Sex and Competence1


  • 1

    This research was partially supported by a grant to L. A. Penner from the Office of Sponsored Research, University of South Florida. Portions of this study were presented in a symposium on the Status of Women in the Southeast at the April, 1973 meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association. The proceedings of this symposium appear in the American Psychologist, 1974, 29, 519–540.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. Louis Penner, Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida 33620.


A study was conducted to investigate evaluations of experimenters as a function of their sex and competency. It was hypothesized that (a) competent male and female experimenters would be evaluated as equal in competence, but that females acting incompetently would be judged as less competent than would males who were also acting incompetently and (b) competent females would be judged as less feminine relative to incompetent females; whereas incompetent females would be judged as extremely feminine. Undergraduate males and females viewed videotapes of male or female experimenters acting either competently or incompetently and then rated these experimenters on a 20-item semantic differential scale. It was found that when the female experimenters unambiguously displayed competence, they were judged as of equal competence to male experimenters acting in a similar manner; in the incompetent condition, however, female experimenters were judged as less competent than male experimenters. Competent females were perceived as less feminine than incompetent females; incompetent females were perceived as more feminine than females in any other experimenter condition. It was postulated that these findings were due to (a) subjects’expecting incompetency of women and (b) subjects’equating competence with the masculine role and incompetence with the feminine role.